The government Minister for Crime & Policing, Kit Malthouse, has written to The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to seek clarity on the permitted legal level of controlled cannabinoids in CBD products. A move which may shake up the way CBD products are sold in the UK.
In the letter addressed to Chair of the ACMD, Professor Owen Bowden-Jones, MP Kit Malthouse seeks clarity on the issue of THC content in non-medicinal CBD products readily available on the high street, stating:
“The Home Office is keen to draw on ACMD advice on the issue of CBD products which are not medicines. There has been a proliferation of such products available online and on the high street in recent years. While as an isolated substance, CBD is not a controlled drug, there is recent evidence that many of the products available contain controlled cannabinoids and that it is difficult to isolate pure CBD.”
The letter seeks to gain a clearer, legal understanding of how CBD products should be classified under the law, outlining that government “wishes to explore the possibility of creating a specific exemption in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 for CBD products which contain no more than a defined trace percentage of controlled cannabinoids.”
At present, many manufacturers and retailers of CBD containing products have operated under the assumption that products must contain less than 0.2% THC to remain legal. This is based on interpretation of Home Office guidance on cannabis cultivation, which states that “licences may be issued for the cultivation of cannabis plants with a low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content” (0.2%). However, this guidance only applies in the context of hemp plants being cultivated for industrial purposes and does not refer to CBD products being sold for human consumption.
In reality, it is the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (the MDR) which define the legal framework under which CBD products are legally sold. This states that a CBD product will be exempt from being illegal where it satisfies all three elements of the exempt product criteria:
1) it is not designed for the administration of the controlled substance, ie THC
2) any THC elements of the product are packaged in such a way that it cannot be recovered by readily applicable means, or at a level which would constitute a risk to health;
3) it contains no more than one milligram per component part of the product.
Therefore, a CBD product must contain no more than one milligram per container, not less than 0.2% as is often suggested, for it to be legal. Due to this confusion, many CBD products containing trace amounts of THC and other controlled cannabinoids could, in fact, be considered illegal, leading to prosecutions for manufacturers, retailers and consumers.
The letter continues to propose a solution to this grey area, stating “The Government is minded to amend the 2001 Regulations to permit CBD products that contain no more than a defined trace percentage of certain controlled cannabinoids as an impurity.”
“In terms of this trace amount, we propose that the defined trace percentage in CBD products be set at a level which will be between 0.01% and 0.0001% by weight per controlled cannabinoid.”
While the context of the letter may be confusing for end users, the move has been welcomed with some cautious optimism by people within the CBD industry. Ultimately, clearer definitions of what is and isn’t allowed in products can only be beneficial to consumers who buy CBD.